Monday, December 12, 2011

REVIEW: Mercer Island Crossfit

I first heard of Crossfit a year or two ago through my mother-in-law, Michelle.  She'd been looking quite fit, and it turned out Crossfit was the reason for her toned muscles.  However, short of the clear results of her efforts, nothing she said made Crossfit sound like something I would want to try.  Ever.  It sounded way too hard core for me...uber-heavy weights and throwing things at the wall and being yelled at to work harder.

(Keep in mind I'm the gal who gave a speech in high school on why sports were stupid and only took up running in college since I believed it would help my endurance in musical theatre auditions.)

When Jared started working at the SJCC early this summer, I ended up getting a membership since I was impressed with "the J" and also fed up with L.A. Fitness.  It so happened that there was a Crossfit "box" right there in one of the raquetball courts next to the fitness center.  I played racquetball with my dad a few times a week, and would often watch the Crossfitters as they ran around, sweating like crazy and apparently having a great time.

My uber-tough and very fit husband is always looking for new ways to challenge himself, and started up with Mercer Island Crossfit a few months ago.  He LOVED it (particularly the variety and the competitive aspect - workouts are generally timed) and would come home super happy each night to tell me about the WOD (workout of the day) and how fast he had been.

See the WOD on the right?

Finally, on my Self Day in early November, I decided it was time for me to check out Crossfit myself.  The first class is always free, which of course was extra motivating.  I showed up a 6am for the Tuesday morning class, and was pleasantly surprised. 

There were two other folks there for the class, one guy and one gal, and the WOD was not lifting 2 tons and throwing things, but rather a few rounds of an 800 meter run followed by sit-ups and kettlebell swings.  Coach Corey hardly yelled, and if he did, it was stuff like, "Great work, keep up that pace!" instead of, "Get moving, you lazy slobs!!!  No pain, no gain!!!"

Kettlebells which I like, and medicine balls
which we did not have to throw.  Yay!

I had a great time and was able to do the entire WOD with no scale-downs.  (Ironically I've had to scale down everytime since...either I'm more of a runner than I think I am or I'm not quite Crossfit-buff yet.  Probably both.)

I liked Crossfit so very much that I have now been coming 2-3 times a week for almost 6 weeks.  Here is my official bullet-by-bullet review:
  • Environment: 3 out of 5.  The box is always very tidy and well-organized.  However, if you are hoping for pretty colors and big mirrors and impressive sound quality from big speakers, you will be disappointed.  It's usually cold in the fall/winter (dress in layers - you WILL warm up), and it's in a racquetball court, so it's bare bones and sometimes Coach's CDs skip.
  • Instructor: 5 out of 5.  I've been to class with both Coach Corey and Coach Alison, and they each provide a really great workout.  They are very encouraging, and most importantly, they focus on good form rather than trying to get you to break records.  They demonstrate things clearly beforehand, keep abreast of any injuries or concerns you may have, and correct your stance as you go through the workout to keep everyone as healthy as possible.

    Coach Scott from Stoneway doing a pre-Team WOD explanation.
    Me with the braids and my cute mother-in-law in black to the right.
  • Affordability: 3 out of 5.  Classes start at $129 per month for 2 classes a week.  This breaks down to about $16.13 per class.  You can either do Crossfit in addition to your gym membership at the SJCC, or you can simply do Crossfit.  For Crossfit, there is no initiation fee and no long-term commitment.  You pay by the month.
  • Convenience: 4 out of 5.  Classes run M-F at 6am and 9:45am (with a 7am "open gym") and M-F 5 pm, M-Th 6pm, and F 4pm.  1st and 3rd Saturdays are a 9:30am "team WOD."  You can also schedule private classes (pricing may differ from regularly scheduled classes) if you are new, or if those times don't fit your schedule.

    Team WOD day - me doing a squat on the right

  • Cardio/endurance: 5 out of 5.  It's amazing how they kick your heart rate into gear, even on the WODs that include zero running/jump rope.  You move from exercise to exercise with little or no rest breaks during the WOD, and the fact that it's timed helps you to push a little harder.  This has been a huge benefit for my running - I've been able to cut down on mileage and get faster at the same time. 
  • Muscle building/fat burning: 5 out of 5.  I have seen a changes in my body after only 5+ weeks of Crossfit.  You lift weights you never thought you could, which is building muscle, and you are in motion all through the WOD, which combines with the increase in muscle for a decrease in body fat.  The impressive part is that the women who've been coming for a year or more do not look creepy man-buff.  They look feminine and really toned. 
  • Flexibility: 3 out of 5.  After the warm-up, Coach Corey has us spend at least 5 minutes on mobility, whether it's shoulders or IT bands or something of the sort.  This is really important as it keeps us limber for the WOD.  However, there is generally not time after the WOD for stretching at the end of class unless you make time to do it on your own.  And with this much muscle work, you really should.
  • Body awareness: 4 out of 5.  The Coaches really try to watch to make sure that you engage the right muscles and keep your form excellent throughout, but they can't watch everyone all the time.  It is easy to get tired/caught up in the timed factor and let things slide or push yourself a little too far for the sake of getting the time or weight you want.
  • Fun factor: 4 out of 5.  I love the fact that the WOD is new every single day.  Not only does this mean I don't have to come up with a workout myself, but it also keeps you from getting bored mentally.  Usually they are really fun, especially when you get to do things like walk up the wall or carry your buddy.

Me and Michelle

  • Community: 5 out of 5.  I have not known any gym or workout class to show the level of comraderie that Crossfit provides.  Your fellow men and women will cheer you on, offer tips, and even change your tire if you get a flat on the way to a morning WOD (shout-out to Jeff and Ray)!  They take out the intimidation factor and make even the difficult workouts doable.
Final verdict: Unless you are just starting to workout from having been a couch potato for five years, Crossfit is THE BEST workout you could possibly have for building endurance and losing body fat.  You will see results in a very short time, and will feel encouraged each time you walk into the box.  I highly recommend giving it a try.

Don't forget to check out the Carrots 'N' Cake giveaway!


  1. Your body will still be fragile but with the low impact cardio workout that abdominal exercise machines provide, you can begin on a light intensity workout plan and slowly build on this until you are ready for high intensity workouts. You know yourself that you will not be able to plan your workouts.

  2. I'm glad I make you want to buy pieces from my posts... that's my intention :) Now if only those stores would pay to make you guys want to buy things! Haha. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog!
    xo, Sarah


Thanks for adding your two cents to The (Megha) Mix!